Â This is a guest article by John Cherry, author of Better Than LennonÂ - Simon Barrett
As part of a series of five shows they performed during the week. The group Beatlemania Now performed at a sold out show on Saturday night, July 10th at the Manatee Players Theatre. Located in the old downtown section of Bradenton, the theatre holding approximately 250 people, mostly locals, was filled for the 8 pm show. The stage was set up with four large arrows across the back, simulating the setup for the Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The band consisted of Davey Justice as Paul, Scott Arch, one of the original Beatlemania Broadway production members, as John, newcomer Jess Banner as George, and Bart Smith as Ringo.Â Costume changes among the group were numerous, a minimum of a half dozen used to set the time period for The Beatles songs. Also setting a time frame for the music was video shown on a screen behind the group. Most of the significant events of the 60â€™s, starting with the John Kennedy assassination, were shown in some form during the show.
The first two songs were â€œI Want to Hold Your Handâ€ and â€œShe Loves You.â€ Both were satisfactory performances, although done in shortened versions that were not enhanced by the missing parts. Next was â€œI Saw Her Standing There,â€ â€œRoll Over Beethoven,â€ â€œI Feel Fineâ€-with opening feedback, â€œCanâ€™t Buy Me Love,â€ and â€œEight Days with Week,â€ which had the lyrics on the screen to aid in a chorus sing along. Justice then performed a creditable performance of â€œYesterday,â€ with an electronic quartet backing. â€œWe Can Work it Outâ€ was performed without the Mellotron sound, leaving it a bit hollow. Video of The Beatles performance at Shea Stadium was showing on the back screen. A fairly rare Beatle tribute band song â€œIn My Lifeâ€ came next, followed by another Paul solo with â€œEleanor Rigby.â€ Banner got his first solo on â€œHere Comes the Sun,â€ which was a fine performance, but the song again lacked musical depth. Now in Sgt. Pepper gear, the band did â€œSgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Bandâ€ and Smithâ€™s first vocal in â€œWith a Little Help from Friends.â€ A shortened version of â€œStrawberry Fields Forever,â€ came before one of the better performances of the night in â€œA Day in the Life.â€ This led the show to intermission.
In a twist I have not seen from other Beatle tribute band shows, Paul (Justice) wore headphones during â€œAll You Need is Love,â€ while sitting cross legged on a chair. While this was similar to the actual video production of the song by The Beatles, the setup for the rest of the group was not. â€œMagical Mystery Tour,â€ complete with scenes from the movie on the screen, was another song that lacked depth, missing the brass portion that helps define the tune. Justice botched the lyrics a bit for â€œPenny Lane,â€ which precluded a crowd favorite â€œI Am the Walrus.â€ Arch, looking much like John Lennon, had a weak vocal for â€œRevolution,â€ but came back strong with his version of â€œImagine.â€
One of the surprises, and strongest performances of the night, came from Banner, playing the acoustic â€œWhile My Guitar Gently Weepsâ€ version from the â€œLoveâ€ CD. The electronic backing was timely and accurate. In front of a video showing The Beatles in their last show on the rooftop, â€œGet Backâ€ was another song lacking depth, basically skipping the Billy Preston solo piano portion. Arch seemed to be trying to hard to sound like John Lennon in â€œCome Together,â€ which had an unidentified video on the screen that looked it could have been a â€œRock Bandâ€ video version, except for the part of The Beatles riding off in go kart vehicles.
Before performing â€œLet it Be,â€ Banner spoke briefly about The Beatles heading toward a breakup, citing the death of manager Brian Epstein and the introduction of Yoko â€œONOâ€ (said with emphasis) to the rest of the group. Justice had his best performance of the night with â€œLet it Beâ€ as the first closing song of the night. After coming back on stage to perform an encore, the band was introduced, the first and only chance to know their names at that point. The finale was â€œHey Jude,â€ an enjoyable performance with the crowd standing and singing along as directed by Justice.
While I have seen lesser Beatle tribute bands, I would not put this version at the top of my list. Earlier this year, I saw the group Beatlemania in Venice, FL, and they were a much more polished version of the Fab Four. The characters were more Beatle like and the music and singing were much better. A local Sarasota Beatle tribute group, The Glass Onion Band, is also superior musically and vocally, while skipping the costumes and character emphasis. At $30 a ticket, I felt it was a bit pricy for the product, but still an enjoyable night of great music.